…as Govt Commissioners display reluctance to update old voters’ list
…Chairman saw legal opinion before list expired
…Commissioner describes opinion as “water under the bridge”
Discussions on the legal opinion offered by the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM’s) legal officer of the need to update the voters’ list are being pushed aside even as the possible need for early elections loom larger by the day.
At the conclusion of GECOM’s statutory meeting on Tuesday, Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander informed the media that the legal opinion is, in fact, “water under the bridge”.
“For all intents and purposes, we are not discussing the substance of that opinion at this time…the substance of the opinion, as described in the meeting, is, in a sense, water under the bridge,” Alexander said, citing the current no-confidence cases before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
But according to Opposition-nominated Commissioner Sase Gunraj, there has been a marked reluctance from the Government-nominated Commissioners – Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman – to even contemplate updating the old list, as advised by the legal officer and urged by the Opposition-nominated Commissioners for some time.
“There has been a refusal by the full Commission, particularly a majority of the Commission, to take any steps to refresh that list outside of house-to-house registration. You recall my earlier complaints in relation to the decision of three members of the Commission and the Chairman, in relation to dealing with that issue,” Gunraj said.
He added: “And the secretariat seems hell-bent on conducting this house-to-house registration, when there is no list present in effect and when there is need to have a list, as is mandated by law.”
Gunraj pointed out that GECOM’s Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, acknowledged seeing the legal opinion of GECOM’s legal officer, Excellence Dazzell, before April 30, when the old voters’ list expired.
“The Chairman has said that he has seen that opinion…at some time prior to the expiry of the list, sometime in April before April 30. He has acknowledged that he has received and perused that report prior…It is because of the acquiescence of the Chairman that that report was presented to the full Commission,” Gunraj said.
Last week Tuesday, Dazzell’s legal opinion was tabled at a statutory meeting of GECOM. In the opinion, she set out that “based on [election laws], the list must be updated bi-annually by adding persons who are now qualified to be registered, to that list and those who are no longer qualified to be registered, to be taken off that list”.
This runs counter to the arguments made by the Government-nominated Commissioners on GECOM that a new list was required through house-to-house registration. In fact, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Guyanese has gone to the courts over the exercise, arguing that if it goes forward, she will be disenfranchised. In fact, the Opposition has contended that many more will be in the same predicament.